Few commercial activities encourage closer relationships with clients than the thoroughbred breeding industry – born out of shared risks and rewards that often lead to enduring friendships.
The Haunui Farm client base is peppered with friends, both old and new, but one is of particular significance because it boasts both human and equine elements and is widely hailed within the industry as Jim and Annie Sarten’s Belle family.
Jim Sarten died in 1981, Annie in 1989. But their love of thoroughbreds and close association with Haunui Farm has carried on uninterrupted by their daughter Marie Leicester with the continuing support of the Belles.
The Belle dynasty had its beginnings during World War II when Marie Leicester’s parents were struggling farmers in northern Taranaki. It came about when a friend asked them to provide grazing for thoroughbred mare Belle Star and later gifted her to them.
Jim Sarten mated Belle Star with Foxbridge and the resulting daughter, Belle Fox, whose multiple wins included open class sprints at Te Rapa and Ellerslie. In her first three years at stud she failed to conceive and her first, born in 1948, had twisted legs.
Another barren year followed, but Jim Sarten refused to hoist the white flag and struck gold when she clicked with Fairs Fair and produced 16-time winner and ARC Railway Handicap hero Supreme Court.
Belle Fox’s 1951 filly by Instinct and named Belle Rosa produced the champion Star Belle as a result of a 1963 mating with Summertime. Star Belle won 18 races and became the only filly to win the Ellerslie Triple Crown – the Great Northern Derby, Oaks and St Leger.
In time the dynasty founded by Belle Star was to win more than a hundred races for Jim and Annie Sarten and countless others for people who punted on the family at yearling sales. Marie Leicester, like her parents, has continued to both race and sell with much enthusiasm, with current Group 3 winner, Annie Higgins the new family star.